Craig Farrow lives in Vermont and is a turner, carver, cabinetmaker and joiner. He has the tools and skills to do all of these specialized aspects of 18th century woodworking – aspects that would have been the domain of individual craftspeople in an urban 18th century shop. His interest in the craft began with the tools.
“I had a professor in college, a humanities professor, and his interest was collecting tools. He offered a course on how to sharpen your tools, how to sharpen saws. He also had a great collection of books on early American furniture. I was really interested. He suggested going to see the furniture collections at the Wadsworth Athenaeum and the Yale University Art Gallery. “
Craig found the tools to be works of art in themselves made of woods like lignum vitae, boxwood and rosewood. He was also interested in early furniture and how it was made with these tools. At the suggestion of this professor, Craig visited an antique dealer who allowed him to examine the furniture and its construction. One item in the person’s collection was a lathe used for turning wood. “One of the greatest things he had was a lathe. - and as far as I know the only 18th c. American lathe in existence. It was a post and beam lathe, 10 feet long, 8 feet tall. It is completely hand planed. This was a beautiful and fantastic tool.” Craig taught himself how to use a lathe like this one, as he would teach himself joinery, carving and cabinetmaking – basically on his own.
“The only class that I had was introduced by the college as an extracurricular in 1972. It was a 10-session class – a beginner’s introduction to early American tools, and fundamentals of furniture making. Other than that, I taught myself this whole trade from scratch. “
In Craig’s 4th year of college, a different professor said to him -you can always do something you don’t like, or you could follow your passion. Craig took up the challenge. “I did my own apprenticeship of 8 years. I was totally passionate. I collected the tools.” And he also started making furniture. His first piece was made for that extracurricular class. Inspired by a refectory table in St. John’s Church in Waterbury, CT, his first effort was a smaller version – a coffee table, but using the same bowtie wedges on the top.
After doing that table he decided that he would have to go back to the basics, and referred to books by Wallace Nutting and Russell Kettell. The books had drawings, and Craig was able to use them to begin to replicate some pieces. His first “basic” piece was a 3-board stool. Over time, Craig has amassed the tools and skills to advance far beyond his first 3-board stool. He currently conserves, repairs, restores and reproduces furniture pieces. Come see him work on Saturday, November 12 from 10:30 am to 4:00 pm at Historic Deerfield.